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Port 1-0 Sukhothai “It’s Never Too Late”

After being dumped out of the FA Cup in midweek Port returned to the business of trying to keep the title race alive against Sukhothai, at a once again empty PAT stadium. Serving up the kind of match that would have seen the stadium rocking under normal circumstances, as Port snatched all three points with an injury time winner.

Coach Oud rang the changes making 7 alternations to the starting 11. The most striking of which saw Suarez (5) omitted from the matchday squad having completed the full 120 minutes against Buriram. Pakorn (7) having gone off injured was a less surprising absentee, while Nurul (13) who left the field on a stretcher was amougst the substitutes.

 

Worawut returned to the starting line up

 

Sukhothai arrived with just one win in over 100 days or 8 games to be slightly less dramatic. However, no matter how bad your form is when you have John Baggio and Ibson Melo amongst your number you always have a chance. Which pretty much summed up the attacking plan for Sukhothai, park the bus, keep men behind the ball and try and get the ball to your two attacking stars and see what they can do.

That though would be enough to earn them a surprisingly even split of possession though out the game. While chances were heavily in Ports favour, early on Boli (94) and Chappuis (17) passed up opportunities to give the home side the lead. Before Baggio sent a free-kick from the edge of the box over the crossbar and into zone D. As Sukhothai in an empty stadium, had seen fit to make Port attack their less preferred end in the second half and give their keeper the slightly easier time offered by the empty seats in zone D.

 

Adisak with an attempt on goal

 

On a number of occasions Port had good chances to take the lead before half time. Chappius had the ball in the net, collecting the ball in an offside position after it had come off a defender. VAR had a look and decided the defender hadn’t done enough of whatever the current reading of the rule is, to consitiute the defender having played the ball. While both Boli and Adisorn (20) would find themselves unable to get anything on to crosses unmarked at the back post, with the goal unguarded.

So it would continue into the second half as chances were passed up or well saved. From a corner, Tanaboon (71) on for the Adisorn, who suffered an injury its reported will end his season,  skyed a shot at the back post, when with the keeper stranded. You hoped that Port would find a way through but without the cauldron that the PAT becomes on such nights or the spark of creativity so often provided by Saurez, it seemed increasingly likely that Sukhothai would hold out for a point.

 

Not that they were without chances themselves. Later on, Worawut/Baresi in a moment very similar to that which saw him give away a penalty in Ports previous home game against Ratchaburi, stretched to divert a cross, resulting in the ball bouncing off his leg on to arm. A VAR review followed but despite the near identical events, different results were reached. So the inconsistent application of a bad rule is that we conceded a penalty when 2-0 up that doesn’t change the result and avoid conceding one that would have almost certainly seen Sukhothai collect all 3 here. They’d have every right to feel aggrieved. Not that they were finished, as in injury time as Baggio collected a balled chipped into the box and unmarked with only Worawut/Keeper to beat but fired into the keepers foot trying to cruel the ball into the far corner. The flag was raised but if the ball had found the net, the VAR review would have seen the Madagascan had in fact been onside.

Nothing to see here.

Then in the last minute of injury time, Nattawut (45) from the wide left cruelled the ball near perfectly into the box, where Boli collected and fired home the winner.  At which point the stadium should have erupted and much drinking and flare burning followed outside. Though a beery fuzz Boli’s effort would have drawn comparisons to Bergkamp’s 1998 effort against Argentina.  Sadly those just aren’t options right now. Another late three points. Which makes it 10 goals out of 41 after the 85th minute, 4 of which have won matches*. Up next Buriram in the league.

 

That winning feeling

 

 

 

Man of the Match

Yannick Boli. Score a last minute winner on your home debut and your pretty much assured the award. However the award was his anyway, as over 90 minutes he worked ceaselessly, leading to a number chances and also created a number for others with his selfless play.

 

Match winner and MOTM Yannick Boli

 

*stats from Marco (@mar1878 on twitter).

 

FA Cup Ram Raid: Port out on Penalties to Buriram

Port FC 0 – 0 Buriram United FC

(Buriram win 9-8 on penalties)

 

 

 

Port’s defense of the FA Cup ended this week, falling to Buriram on penalties after a lacklustre 120 minutes of football. In truth the visitors probably deserved it more and Port only seemed to raise their game towards the end of the match.

 

As expected club captain David Rochela returned to the line up and was partnered by Tanaboon, while Chappuis kept his place in the starting XI after arguably his best performance in a Port shirt at Chiang Rai on the weekend. Settling into our seats at The Sportsman, the first half was a tepid affair, in fact, the only time someone was on their feet was after they ordered a spicy beef salad with extra chillies. Go came close with a long range shot at the end of the half which was smartly saved by Siwarak but I personally spent most of my time marvelling at Buriram’s new Brazilian centre back Rodrigo; the guy is fucking gigantic and nullified Suarez and Bonilla single handedly. Oh, Pakorn got subbed before half time. Maybe he was injured, or maybe his food delivery had arrived? Port’s lackadaisical approach in the first half continued into the second half but some tactical substitutions from Coach Oud helped give Port a new sense of urgency and they started to match their opponents. Suarez had a couple of good chances, as did substitute Nattawut, before Go made a complete hash of a golden opportunity, so extra time was needed.

El Capitán Rochela back starting and making last ditch tackles

The TV channel showing the match completely screwed up, forgetting the chance of extra time so the Port fans at The Sportman had to endure a loop of adverts and missed the first 8 minutes. During that period Bonilla missed a great chance, volleying directly at the Buriram keeper, before Kevin saw his low cross deflected goalwards in the second period but Siwarak produced the best save of the match. 

So penalties were to decide the tie and, at 4-4, Rattanai managed to save Chakkit’s effort and gave Tanasith the opportunity for Port to win it. Sadly his penalty was easily saved, far too close to the keeper, and we were into sudden death. At 9-8 Tanaboon shot cannoned off the keeper’s legs over the goal frame and that was that; Port were out.

Tanaboon is consoled after missing the decisive penalty

It’s a shame that Port took over 60 minutes to show some initiative but Buriram were solid and stuck to their game plan. Gama has clearly drilled them into a strong defensive unit and if they had a more clinical forward line they would have beaten us soundly. So we need to continue grinding out results in the league and hope BG drop points to have any chance of silverware. To be honest, this campaign has been so drawn out I’m not even sure what’s going on but it’s Sukhothai on the weekend so lets hope Oud can get his players ready for the next match.

 

Man of the Match :

Kevin – Arguably the player showing the most initiative on the pitch, he came closest to scoring and his drive and determination were excellent. His form has been very strong in the last few matches.  

Mind the Gap: Thai Port FC v Sukhothai FC Preview

With three League games to squeeze in before yet another season defining fixture, this time to BG Pathum, Port need to build on the success of their last league outing, one that seemed unlikely after an almost calamitous first half at Chiang Rai. However, with some telling substitutions, a renewed determination and a welcome-back goal for the little marmoset, the gap is now ‘only’ seven points – we can do it, can’t we?

However, the ‘rampant’ Lions were de-clawed on Wednesday, a generally lackluster performance seeing their defence of the FA Cup fizzling out in a sudden-death penalty shoot-out; Buriram just that little more precise. Port had a great chance to win it at 4-4, and maybe, in hindsight, Thanasith was not the best choice to deliver the killer blow, a cooler, more experienced head might have been better, as Nitipong later demonstrated.

On recent form, Sukothai should not present a major challenge, having lost their last five games, including to cellar dwellers Rayong FC. They have supposedly strengthened since the break with, labeled by Transfermarket, some, ‘Winter Arrivals’, including Joshua Grommen (4), a Dutch-Filipino centre-back from Brisbane City, who may partner Myanmar international, Seo Min Tun, unless he’s under house arrest. At the other end of the pitch they have been very much reliant for goals from captain and mascot, Madagascar’s John Baggio (10) and Brazilian, Ibsen Melo (71), who have contributed 18 of the Fire Bat’s 26 goals so far.

 

 

 

However, the player I am going to highlight is one who won’t be playing. Sadly, we will not be treated to the delights of a ‘Winter Departure’; 19 year old, Anglo-Thai, Leon James, who has moved to Barcelona, the first Thai player ever to do so. Yes, that Barcelona. James joined Leicester City as a 6 year old and, having watched a highlights clip of his performances with Leicester Under 18’s, the boy is clearly a ‘bit special’, as they say. He should be, if you believe Wikipedia, who have him down as making one appearance for Sukothai and scoring 15 goals!

 

 

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman, it is ‘reported’, has compared him to a young Lionel Messi. Eat your heart out, Chanatip. If only he had stayed a week longer; on second thoughts, James, a central midfielder, would have been facing Sivakorn. Ouch! Sorry Ronald.

 

 

Assuming all players will be available, and, with now, seemingly nothing to lose, why not throw caution to the wind and go for a bold, madcap, attacking 3-5-2 formation – we’re not really going to catch BG Pathum Utd are we?

 

 

The match kicks off at 1800 Thai time at The PAT Stadium but games will continue to be behind closed doors. Channel 5 are broadcasting it.  Or why not join some of the Sandpit regulars at The Sportsman on Sukhumvit Soi 13 to watch the game.

Port V Buriram FA Cup Preview

Forgive me what will sound like excessive hype but this evening’s match against Buriram in the FA Cup might be the most defining match of the season so far. Let me explain why. Firstly the winner of the FA Cup not only gets the glory of winning some silverware but also one of Thailand’s two direct entry spots to the 2022 AFC Champions League group stage. There will be those who are thinking at this point that the extra cup games might be best avoided. Better we push for a title challenge. However, that won’t be the case due to the way the season has been scheduled from this restart, with the three rounds of the cup that remain to be played after the season finishes and before Port travel to take part in the group stage of the 2021 Champions League, there are no more cup games in the time frame of the league season. While with BG Pathum United already out there is nobody we wouldn’t be favorites to beat left in the competition, especially as we will have to beat arguably the strongest other team left in the competition to make the next round.

After this evening’s match up, we have three league games before a trip to the Leo Stadium to face the current leaders, who are 7 points clear at this point. Win that and assuming we have matched or bettered them in the run up and we are very much in the title race. Which we can then focus on.  Come out of it defeated and still in the cup and we can look to stay ahead of the pack chasing 3rd, a gap which currently stands at 11 points. A cushion that will allow us to rotate over the following six weeks to maintain a top 3 finish and the safety net of a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds and arrive at those cup games in better shape than teams who have been pushing in every game.

 

Of course, the situation is not massively dissimilar for tonight’s opposition, while making up an 18 point gap on BG Pathum United, seems beyond the realms of possibility, a top three finish and a FA Cup win would go along way to redeeming what has generally been a disappointing season for the team many tipped to be champions before the season started.

 

Buriram

Firstly lets mention they are again managed by Thailand’s master of tactical shithousery Gama, whatever you think of him and his style he gets results.

The Thai spine of the team remains greatly unchanged over recent years, with keeper Siwarak Tedsungneon (1) still turning in performances into his mid-30s. In front of him is ever dependable center back Pansa Hemviboon (3) and Sasalak Haiprakhon (2). Then there is Supachai (9) and Suphanat (19) the bright young things of Thai football.   You know what you are getting from this lot and its all been said before in past previews of Buriram games.

 

Of far more interest is that Buriram are on yet another collection of foreigners, for having never managed to replace one of the two best foreigners in Thai footballs recent history when Diogo moved on, they decided again earlier this season that they could do without the service of the other and defensive steward Tunez was allowed to leave.  Attempting to fill the gap left by the Venezuelan is Brazilian Diago (26), (l guess if he’s good with that name, he nearly covers both the departed). A solid player in the Brazilian Serie A, where he’s been turned out regularly year on year for Fluminese bar a spell in the middle east. Fellow Brazilian Rosa (91) made his Buriram debut on boxing day v Chonburi and turned in an impressive display scoring one and creating another, whilst looking busy and more on the pace than most debutants to Thai football, if he produces a similar performance he’ll be one the Port defence need to watch. While Maicon (7) is a winger who also has links to Fluminese and has spent time in Russia and Portugal. The Asian contingent is made of the mercurial Burmese wideman Aung Thu who struggled to get game time under Gama at Munagthong last season, after a flying start to his time in Thailand the season before at Police Tero. However that didn’t put the pair off linking up again. Finally, they have Australian midfielder Brandon O’Neill (13) as a bit of an A-League tragic, l rate him and expect him to make a decent go of his move to Korea with Pohang Steelers at the start of last season but after one a season and 16 appearances he was moved on, considered a bit of a disappointment. That said l think he’ll be a cut above most in Thailand so expect a feisty battle in the middle tomorrow.

 

Port

As l said at the outset there no reason not to take the FA Cup seriously. Expect Rochela to be involved with it being the cup. Boli didn’t play in either of Ratchiburi’s cup games so l believe is available. In our two previous cup outings, we’ve rotated giving squad players game time but with two games a week for the foreseeable future rotation is going to be unavoidable. Adisak(9) failed to impress on the wing and assuming Boli(94) isn’t cup-tied I’d start him.

The game is live at 1800 Thai time on AIS Play and T Sports.

Bol-i Saw Him Standing There – The Beatles (Remastered) 2-1.

Under more normal circumstances a meeting between the reigning League and FA Cup champions at this time of the year would mark the curtain raiser to new a season. However we’re a long way from even Thai league standards of normal, so this game was the final game of the first leg of the season played (5 weeks after the first matches of the second leg took place).  A second leg set to see teams play twice a week for two months. While for Port there’s the potential for four more FA Cup games and six ACL Champions League group games to come up to the first week of May, busy times are ahead.

 

So just days shy of a year since their last meeting in that prelude to the then 2020 season, Port were looking to avenge that match up, in which a better organized Chiang Rai team played to their strengths and put a lethargic and disorganized Port to the sword, whilst at the same time looking to keep the lingering hopes of a title change alive, following defeat at Samut Prakan when a better organized Samut Prakan Dons team played to their strengths and put a lethargic and disorganized Port to the sword.

 

Port made three changes from that last outing with Bodin (10) and Chappuis (17) coming in for Pakron(7) and Siwakorn (16) (both of whom weren’t part of the matchday squad), while Worawut/Maldini (24) dropped to the bench to be replaced by Adisorn (20).  For the hosts, Phitiwat (6) missed out while Ekanit (37) and Felipe (7) were on the bench.

 

Not just a pretty face, a good performance from Chappuis

 

After the disastrous start last time out, you’d imagine Oud had been hammering home the desire to not give them a look in early on. An excellent plan we stuck to for the best part of three minutes before, Korean midfield Cho (8), who’s headband had more than a hint of Daniel Larusso about it, played a ball into space for Suriya (30) on the left, who just got behind Nitipong (34) whilst being played onside by Adisorn in the middle, who in attempting to step back in line allowed Chaiyawat (26) to steal a yard on him. Suriya got to the ball on the edge of the area just before Worawut/keeper (36) and squares it, where Chaiyawat collected and sent the ball past a flailing Adisorn. VAR has offered football few positives but stopping Chiang Rai celebrating a goal is going down as one of them. And so while people in a broom cupboard got their line drawing apps fired up and decided there was no reason to disallow it, we were left with a couple of minutes to discuss if a slightly more rugged defender of the Dolah or Worawut type would have stopped Chaiyawat or got some part of themselves in the way of his shot. Before debate turned to what was going on at Chiang Rai, had they had a fancy dress party pre match? As the goalscorer appeared to be sporting a haircut that was a homage Cruella de Vil, while Sivakorn’s (10) pink effort was surely a tribute to Layne Staley (ask your local old rocker kids).

 

Chiang Rai scorer Chaiyawat and his interesting haircut

 

When the game restarted Chiang Rai went full Mourinho parking their bus and allowing Port to dominate possession. Despite much probing, the one good chance of the half was passed up as Bonilla (99), who was kept quiet till being subbed off, sent Kevin’s (23) fizzing near post ball just the wrong side of the upright. The second half restarted in much the same manner, more Port pressure saw Chappuis hitting the woodwork with our best opportunity.  Eventually Port got their equalizer, as Chappuis found Suarez (5) in space on the edge of the box before being felled. And it was the Swiss, having his best game in a Port shirt, who sent the deadball into the box, where Cho under no pressure, perhaps weight down by that now sweaty headband, jumped under the ball, allowing Adisorn to send a ball to substitute Nattawut (45) who unmarked 6 yards out, slotted home between keeper and near post.

 

The original Natta bags another

 

However much like myself, watching a Mourinho side in an evening kick off, Chiang Rai failed to last the full 90 minutes without nodding off. So whilst the game had opened up a since the equalizer it would be their normally resolute defence (second meanest in the league) who’s error would decide who took all 3 points. With the 90 minutes up, Suarez won a 50/50 ball on the left touchline and releases Boli (99) and with just Sarawut (33) in front of him (one has to wonder where was Brinner (6) ……and frankly who cares), squared the ball to Nurul (13), who with Sarawut closing in, Suriya chasing him down and keeper Saranon (1) advances got to his slightly heavy chesting and prodded the ball home. What follows is close as close to pandemonium as one man in an empty stadium can manage. As the ever popular Nurul with arms flapping, eyes popping and badge kissed gave a last minute winner the celebration it deserves. Only aided by the camera cutting to Suriya, who had drawn Johnny Lawrence in the prematch dress up lottery, looked close to tears before cutting back to jubilation on the sidelines, as Port celebrated an unlikely win.

 

All in all, a rather pleasant return for Thai football.

Who’s a happy chappie – Nurul with a passionate celebration of the winner

 

Man of the Match

This was very much a team performance as nobody really stood out to make the award their own. So I’ll give it to Boli, as a newly signed star striker having started on the bench in both games at your new club, to decide to pass to a better positioned teammate with only one defender to beat isn’t something many would do in injury time with the game level.

 

One touch is all it takes – to win MOTM

 

 

Ratch Me If You Can: Port FC vs. Ratchaburi Preview

 

Just under 11 months ago, Port welcomed Filipino champions Ceres Negros to PAT Stadium for an ACL second round qualifier in which we were widely expected to advance. Port had already unveiled a garish gold Champions League shirt intended to be used in the next round, and some foolhardy fans had splashed the cash on tickets to Tokyo. Losing was just unthinkable.

One masterclass in missed opportunities later, and the plucky underdogs had deservedly turned over the home favourites. Our ACL journey was over before it had started, and we’d have to wait another year at least for another shot.

 


 

Well, as it’s turned out, it’s a bit less than a year since Port’s insipid surrender at the PAT, and yet we are already one step closer to qualification than we were last season. With T1 scheduled to drag well in to next year, the FAT decided to base ACL qualification on the league table at the end of the first half of the season, which ends two games from now. With Thailand also having been granted an extra automatic qualification spot due to overtaking Australia in the AFC club coefficient, this means a spot in the top 2 after the next 2 games guarantees Port a spot in the ACL group stages next season, while a 3rd place finish would land us in the qualifiers. So how do things stand now?

Well, the fight for second place is between Port and our opposition on Sunday: Ratchaburi. We are 5 points clear, with both teams having played 13 out of 15 games. That means that a win or a draw guarantees us a second place finish, and even if we lose we can still guarantee finishing second if we win our final game, a tricky trip to Chiang Rai which has been postponed due to the champions having been participating in this year’s ACL group stages. We’re sitting pretty right now, but neither of our next two opponents are going to be pushovers.

 

Ratchaburi Mitrphol FC

Sugar High

 

The Dragons have surprised some with their form this season, and they’ve had an awful lot of fun doing it. Taking the opposite approach to BG, who invested heavily in experienced foreign defenders, Ratchaburi have packed the attack with foreign talent, and have been rewarded with the second highest goal tally in the league. Second to Port, that is.

The key man up top is Yannick Boli (10), who is strongly rumoured (we think it’s a done deal) to have already signed with Port for the second leg. He’s registered 8 goals already this season, and is on top form right now. If a deal has indeed been agreed then the clubs may also have agreed for Boli not to participate on Sunday, which would be a massive boon for Port. His main provider-in-chief Steeven Langil (11), who leads the T1 assist charts, will definitely be missing out having picked up his fourth yellow card last week against Suphanburi. So far, so good.

 

 

Lossemy Karaboue (18) completes Ratchaburi’s foreign quota trio, and unfortunately this time I can find no reason why the French midfielder might miss out. He’s only registered one goal this season, but he’s instrumental in their build-up, and his work rate will mean that Go and Siwakorn will have their hands full in the Port midfield.

20 year old Filipino defender Justin Baas (22), who I identified as a T1 transfer target last year, was smartly snapped up by Ratchaburi this season, and the youngster has already made 5 starts since joining. He’s 50/50 to start at the back alongside fellow big fella Pawee (39). His countryman Javier Patino (20) also deserves a mention for his 5 goals. A Thai League veteran who guarantees you a few goals and doesn’t take up a foreign quota place is never a bad thing.

A clash which has been great to watch in the previous meetings between these two sides has been the battle between Port’s Thai-Swede Kevin (23) and Ratchaburi’s Thai-German Philip Roller (33). Roller is Ratchaburi captain nowadays, and my word has he been leading his side by example this year. Seven goals, and more than that some truly outstanding performances, have made him one of the most impressive players in the league so far in 2020. Yes some of his goals have come from the spot, but he’s been an all-around menace since moving in to a more attacking position this year. Stopping him will be key to stopping Ratchaburi.

 

 

Form

No one has been able to stop Ratchaburi getting on the scoresheet so far this season, but they have also conceded an average of considerably more than a goal a game.

They have 4 wins from their last 6, securing victories against Bangkok Utd, Rayong, Samut Prakan and Suphanburi, but have also been beaten twice at the hands of Chiang Rai and Chonburi. On their day they can beat anyone, but they’re far from consistent.

 

Port FC

Oud-standing

 

Coach Oud has really surprised me by how he’s managed to turn things around at Port since his return to the club. Former assistant coach under Choke, Oud has been able to fix a previously very leaky defence, and the attack is even starting to get back to it’s unplayable best. Seeing Port employing Go in an advanced role specifically to press Muangthong’s defenders when they tried to play short goal kicks last week exemplifies the kind of detail-oriented preparation we’ve lacked under previous coaches. I’m not going to give him credit for picking Worawut (24), who has been a revelation alongside Dolah in defence, but the fact that he has slotted in so effortlessly after struggling in past years is certainly a credit to the current regime.

 

 

There will be a forced change in Port’s back 4 though, which will mean we’re deprived of seeing this year’s edition of the Kevin vs. Roller duel. Kevin is suspended after picking up his fourth yellow card against Muangthong, and who will replace him is an open question. Thitatorn (3) played in Port’s first FA Cup clash while Steuble (15) missed out, but the experienced Filipino full-back has been on the bench while Thitatorn has failed to make the match day squad for the last couple of games. I’d certainly pick Steuble as the best option to shackle Roller, as he’s excellent in just these kind of 1 on 1 duels where defence takes priority. A safe pair of hands, and surely the best man for the job.

 

 

 

The rest of the team should be mostly unchanged, save for Pakorn (7) potentially being replaced on the right flank. Nattawut (45) has impressed in his cameos off the bench, and his two goals in the FA Cup last week should make him the number one candidate ahead of Tanasith (11), who has looked lively but been a little light on end product. Bonilla (99) should continue to lead the line, with Adisak (9) coming off the bench, as he has been doing to great effect (on my wallet) this season.

 

Form

We haven’t conceded in T1 since October, and we haven’t been beaten since September. ‘Nuf said.

 


 

The match will be shown on Channel 5 and AIS Play at 18:00 on Sunday 13 December, 2020.

 

Sandpit contributor John Spittal asks a Lions superfan if this season’s Port FC squad is the best ever?

Ho hum, we beat the Scum.

The referee blows the whistle to conclude another slum vs scum classic…er hold off on that word ‘classic.’ How about just another routine Tarua FC win? Bangkok’s most bitter football rivalry has become just another ho hum 3 points in the standings for the slummers. I have been a Port FC supporter since 2013 and I thought I would not live to see the day that a 2-0 thumping of the mighty Muangthong United would be met with no red flares going off in the sandpit and no crazy farangs dancing like um…crazy farangs. It was a mild, laid back celebration by the PAT stadium faithful. A ‘been there, done that’ type of thing. Wow. Are we, Port FC Lions now that good?

We are THAT good.

This current edition of Thai Port FC has 7 straight wins in league play!  back to back to back clean sheets!  undefeated on the road! Defending champions of the Chang FA Cup and in the round of 16 this season. Surely, all these numbers add up to this 2020-2021 squad being considered the best ever Port FC side?

Nattawuth Boonsorn owner of LAAB 38 restaurant

Well, no, not for one superfan…and stop calling him Shirley. His name is Nattawuth Boonsorn and his Thai food restaurant on Sathupradit soi 38 in Yan Nawa is a shrine in tribute to his beloved Port FC. LAAB 38 loosely translated in English is ‘Fortune 38’. It has Port Lions memorabilia adorning every wall in this six table eatery. Port FC players of the past are displayed above the dining tables. In my home country of Canada, Nattawuth would be considered a superfan; maybe even a superduper fan. He and his family attend most home matches and he has been known to close the doors to his popular LAAB 38 for one to two days because a Port FC away trip beckons. Nattawuth fell in love with the Lions the moment he attended his first match in 2009. When I ask him what year was the best ever Port squad he points to a framed team picture of the 2019 Chang FA Cup champions…

2019 Chang FA Cup Champions

but wait…hold on,  that’s his third place winners.

Second place goes to the team picture right next door..the current 2020-21 squad. His favourite player on this year’s Lions…#10 Bordin Phala.

And the winner is….

First place goes to….he points all the way down his wall of fame to a framed team picture of the 2009-10 Port FC Lions.

Huh? Really? A team that finished 4th in league standings, lost twice to the hated rivals MTU? Nattawuth nods and says “yes, but they won the League Cup for the first time and the 2010 Lions, for the first time, qualified for “The AFC Cup” The Asian Football Confederation Cup then a stepping stone for clubs to get into the AFC Champions League. It was a big deal for Thai football squads to qualify for the AFC Cup. Thai port FC was eliminated from the final 8 teams in the 2010 AFC Cup tournament.

Sompong Soleb forward Thai Port FC Lions 2010-11.

Nattawuth points down to a player photo which is in the centre of his wall. “He is why the 2010 club is my favourite.” The emergence of a true Thai football superstar took place on that side. #24 Sompong Soleb (forward) scored 12 goals in 37 appearances for Thai Port FC in 2010-11. He was instrumental in carrying this rag tag bunch from Klong Toei and making them trophy winners and AFC Cup qualifiers. Many long time club supporters still name Sompong as their all time favourite. Sompong Soleb now plays for Chamchuri United in Bangkok.

2010 Thai Port FC AFC Cup qualifiers. Sompong Soleb is circled.

 

Panache minus the Pang

Nattawuth Boonsorn

Nattawuth Boonsorn says he doesn’t know if the current squad can overtake his 2010 side on his favourite list. He thinks there was something very special with that club of 2010. He says they
played with abandon, care free up front but a disciplined defence. A group of ‘nobody believes in us’ football swashbucklers. Nattawuth smiles slyly when I suggest his 2010 squad had “panache minus the Pang”.

Port Survive Light Frisking: Port FC 6-3 MOF Customs FC

 

Port laid on the entertainment in a pulsating cup tie against the reasonably named Ministry of Finance Customs United Football Club, running out 6-3 winners and advancing to the next round. The score might suggest a rout but it was far from that and our opponents should be proud of their endeavours.

Riding high after our derby victory, Coach Oud decided to shuffle the pack and select two Sandpit “favourites”, Chappuis (17) and Tanaboon (71), in central midfield. There were also nods for Nattawut (45), Adisorn (20), (Right) Thitawee (2) and a welcome return for the El Capitan Rochela (22). Sensing that this wouldn’t be a walk in the park, Kevin (23), Suarez (5), Bonilla (99) and Tanasith (11), who put in a great cameo in the derby, were also drafted into the starting XI.

 

A glorious evening at the PAT

 

Normally the best way to deal with lower league opposition in a cup tie is to steamroller them with some early goals, then toy with them for the remaining minutes and this looked on the cards when Nattawut latched onto a loose back pass and, with the aid of a fortunate deflection off their hapless keeper, strolled the ball into an empty net. Nattawut then helped himself to a second goal, surely a contender for goal of the season, when he received Tanasith’s lay off and deftly chipped the goalie from just inside the box. Pick that out, jogo bonito etc….

 

Winners are grinners , Nattawut bags his first of the evening.

 

Customs clearly were not in the mood to be whipping boys and raised their game, matching us in midfield and constantly exploiting the lack of experience shown from Adisorn and Thitawee. Customs’ midfielder Vaikainah, a wardrobe on legs, was also winning his midfield duels against Chappuis and Tanaboon far too easily. The best chance of the half fell to Deyvison, their Brazilian striker with a Brazilian on his head, sending a header against the post and the follow up was easily gathered by Rattanai (18).

And so, with Port being Port, they did the most Port thing possible and handed the initiative to Customs at the start of the second half. A cross from the weak right hand side was nodded in by Deyvison and then Rattanai took leave of his senses a clattered 2 Customs players earning them a penalty. Deyvison slotted home and sent the travelling contingent into raptures. So 2-2 and it’s now game on.

Port eventually retook the lead in the 75th minute; negligent goalie Chompong failed to hold onto Bonilla’s shot and substitute Adisak (9) scrambled the ball home at the far post. 2 minutes later Suarez pinched the ball off the customs midfield, found Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla in the box and he smashed home Tony Yeboah style to put Port 4-2 up. Just before the 90th minute Bonilla earned a very soft penalty which Captain Rochela coolly finished. Customs decided to add a bit of spice with striker Rachata spanking an absolutely filthy volley over Rattanai. But wait, there was still time for Suarez to square the ball across the box for Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla to tap in his second and make it 6-3. Moments later the final whistle and everyone involved in this encounter could finally exhale.

 

Brace buddies, scorers Freeeeeeeeeee Nelson Bonilla and another for Adisak

 

What can Coach Oud take from this game? Well Nattawut clearly has potential to make the first team and Rochela was a calming influence when Customs got back into the game but sadly cannot play in the league campaign. The B team in truth didn’t perform and several players involved would benefit from loan spells elsewhere. Suarez had his best game supporting our in-form strikers Bonilla and Adisak, which is a relief as he has been a little anonymous (when compared to his usual standards) at times. Still, a very satisfactory week for the club and we go into the next round.     

 

You ain’t seen me…….. right, El Capitan finally back in a Port shirt.

 

One final thing to note; it was great to have the food and drink sellers back at the stadium for matchday. These locals rely on this income and to see them back, happily taking my money in exchange for cold Leo, is a wonderful thing. Let’s hope further restrictions are lifted soon so we can have more fans, more community and more atmosphere at the PAT.

 

MOTM: Nattawut Sombatyotha

The lad can play. Sure, he faded in the second half but he showed skill, directness and opportunism which sadly was lacking in some of our more seasoned midfielders. Arguably he wouldn’t get a chance if Jadet was still manager so it’s great Oud is blooding him in matches like this. His second goal was a thing of beauty and will make the goals of the season list for sure.

 

All pictures: Allie Suwanrumpha  Captions: Sandpit Monkeys

 

Customs Check – Port FC vs. MOF Customs, FA Cup Round of 32 Preview

 

Port continue their FA Cup defence with a home tie against MOF Customs United on Sunday at 6 pm. With the opposition being from the second tier, l was off to the wonderful world of Wikipedia, Transfermkt and the roulette wheel of Thai club website and Facebook pages. Which couldn’t be better summed up than by the first Customs page l found having a total of two posts, including this.

 

Not a clue

 

Add to the mix that contracts signed for the original 2020 season calendar ran till the end of November and there’s a fair chance one or two players who have been Customs first-teamers will have moved on, so apologies if anyone mentioned doesn’t appear.

 

MOF Customs – What We Know

 

Their full name is Ministry of Finance Customs United Football Club. They are based in Lad Krabang, just over the fence from Suvarnabhumi airport. Their ground has two sides and the away stand has one of the best sunsets views in Thai football. So we messed up not warm balling ourselves an away tie.

 

Told you it was nice

 

They’ve managed a solitary season in the top flight in 2008 and finished rock bottom, having been champions of the second tier in 2007. They were coached by our own Sarawut Treephan in 2014. Kayne Vincent was their top scorer last season. We’ve loaned them a few players, Tom will know them all, nobody else will.

 

Easy on the sponsors lads.

 

This Season

 

Customs are currently 12th in the M150 championship. Unbeaten in 3 games and have back to back wins v the middliest of middle table pair Navy and Ranong in their last two matches. Away from home their record is 3-1-3 scoring 10 and conceding 12. Against the top 8 sides in the division, their record is a somewhat disappointing 0-1-5. Conceding an average of 2.5 goals a game. Against those below 8th, it’s a different story with just 5 goals allowed in 9 games (0.56 per game). So, it appears they can handle teams to a level and then it all gets a bit much. Also, 9 of their 15 league games have reached half time scoreless.

They were among the teams from the Championship who had to enter the FA Cup in the Qualification round, drawing fellow second tier club Uthai Thani, in a game that didn’t just get to halftime at 0-0 but remained scoreless to the end of 120 minutes before Customs advanced on penalties. In the last round, they faced the rather wonderfully named Nakhonratchasima Municipal Sport School and made like playground bullies making off with all the lunch money and a place in the next round, 3-0.

 

Who Plays for them?

 

Japanese attacking midfielder, Kenzo Nambu (7) leads the scoring with 7 leagues including a brace against Ranong and one in the previous match v Navy. He’s spent most of his career in the Japanese regional leagues and J3. Before moving to Thailand to join Kasetsart last season.

 

Kenzo scoring against Ranong United

 

Second, on the scoring charts is Brazilian left winger Deyvision (27) who has 4 goals from 11 starts and arrived from Port feeder club Songkhla, he has one of those epically nomadic Brazilian journeyman career history’s appearing to have made 15 transfers in an 8 year career.

 

Deyvison making shapes

 

Not playing for them is South Korean Yoo Byung-soo who moved to Ayutthaya after the pre-COVID part of the season but his nickname of “Ronaldo of Wolmido” is getting him a mention. He’s also currently the second top scorer in the division, maybe we’re better off not know which Ronaldo his moniker is derived from.

To stick to the Thai football stereotype, the defence appears to be marshaled by an overseas player in Swede Viktor Lovgren, who’s a vegan and had a pretty solid career in Sweden before heading over to Customs at the start of the year.

 

Imagine how buff this fella could be if was banging back bacon sandwiches.

 

Back up keeper Pisan Dorkmaikaew (35) has started the two previous rounds of the cup over league first choice Nutchanon (26). Pisan’s Wikipedia page has him down as retired, however, it seems a bit of pressure from Customs officials got him to retract his initial statement. Seemingly one of the better keepers in Thailand at his peak he was called up to the national team squad twice, eight years apart but never capped.

 

You’re going nowhere, son

 

In January, Thai Italian defensive midfielder Antonio Verzura (4) decided to call it a day at the ripe old age of 27 having spent the first half of the 2019 season at Prachuap and the second half at Sukhothai. Yet between the two and being involved in nearly 50% of matchday squads, the only appearance he made on the field came as Port thumped Prachuap 5-0. These Customs fellas are clearly pretty persuasive when they get you in a little room and start explaining the situation you’ve got yourself into. As they pulled the same unretiring stunt and Antonio found himself back warming the bench come the first day of the season. Maybe he makes a superb half time cuppa. His twin brother Gionato is at Chiangmai this season and has never retired.

The Wikipedia fun continues as diminutive midfielder Wasan Samarnsin (22) is deemed a 2016 title winner with that team we hammered 2-0 on Wednesday, for playing a grand total of 9 minutes. While Nattapon Woratayanan (9) was part of the Thai to Everton exchange in 2004 before winning the title with PEA in 2008. He would go on to be part of the Buriram team promoted to the top tier in 2011, before doing the same with Ratchaburi the following season and PTT Rayong in 2013. PTT broke his talismanic run by letting play in the top tier again for the 2014 season. Come 2017 he made a double return to PTT Rayong and the second tier but sadly the magic had gone and promotion has eluded him since.

We finish with the obligatory ex Port players, Jirattikan Vapilai (30) was part of the Foxhunt scheme spending time with both Leicester City and OH Leuven, before returning to Thailand for a spell at Port that didn’t work out, he’s been involved in every Customs game since mid October. Nattakit Fongwitoo (24) made 6 appearances for us in 2016 and l can’t say recall one moment of them, he’s only start came in the last round of the cup. Remarkably, despite having the best pedigree of the three, Tanakorn Dangthong (11) is our only former player at Customs to have registered zero appearances for Port. In our infinite wisdom, we signed the striker off the back of a stellar T2 season in which he was the division’s top Thai scorer, before realizing we had more than enough options up top and letting him go on a free. Classic Port.

 

AND NOW FOR THE KIRIN SLAYERS

 

Whilst it didn’t work out well against Bangkok FC in the last round, I’d expect an almost fully changed starting elven from that seen on Wednesday. With Ratchaburi next weekend and the possibility of a rearranged fixture against Chiangrai leaving little time for rest, it’s time to protect our starters and give the squad some match time. So I’d expect Suarez (5), Pakorn (7), Go (8), Bordin (10), Siwakorn (16), Nitipong (34) Worawut/goalkeeper (36) and Bonilla (99) to be rested. At centre back we have such depth you can give both recent starters Dolah (4) and Worarut/Baresi (24) a day off, not use either* that I’ve selected and still have several decent pairings available. Kevin (23) is suspended for the Ratchaburi game, so I’ve play him. I’d opted for Steuble (15) at right back, although if he’s the go to man to replace Kevin next week then an alternative might be considered. As much as Chappius (17) and Kanarin (31) didn’t work well in the first half at Bangkok FC, I felt they started to take the midfield over in the second half before Suarez and Bordin came on to turn the game and merit a second chance. Even if MOF Customs add to their lengthy lists of scoreless first halves we can stack the bench with players to take the game away from them in the second half. A decent side that struggles against second tier flair players isn’t going to enjoy the sight of a Suarez and Bordin double substitution as they try to hold on for the last 20 minutes. That said, hopefully we get a goal early and cruise to the next round.

*The club this morning put out a promo for the game featuring Pang (of course) along with Rochela and Tanaboon.

 

The Port official page has put out the banner below so hopefully, the game will be on AIS.

 

 

The Good New Normal: Port FC 2-0 Muangthong

 

Derby Day – or ‘Slum vs. Scum’ as it is lovingly referred to by The Sandpit, needs no introduction. Port fans’ most anticipated fixture on the Thai football calendar has been kind to us in recent seasons, and this year was to prove no different! As with many things in the COVID era, this time around it had a strangely subdued feel leading up to kickoff and during the game itself, with a usually packed-to-the-rafters PAT Stadium and its famed fiery atmosphere quashed by the current 50% capacity restrictions. From the outset it was never going to match last year’s experience (shoutout to Josimar for that wonderful goal and the celebration that will be etched in the memory of every Port fan that was there) but this is still *the* game that means the most.

Despite the somewhat different circumstances the match report could essentially read as the standard Port-MTU game checklist of recent years: Plenty of kicking and fouling from both sets of players – tick. Plenty of abuse from the Port fans to the Muangthong players, especially heckling the goalkeeper Van Lam – tick. Port score (Adisak (9), 31st min) – tick. Port score again (Bonilla (99), 86th min) – tick. The team and Klongtoey Army jubilant – tick. Another win over the old enemy – tick. So instead of some wordy recap, when “WE WON!! 2-0!! AGAINST MUANGTHONG!!” is pretty much all that matters right now, here are some matchday photos instead…

 

Bangkok’s finest prematch

 

Suarez dishing out the pain on a night of hurt for Muangthong.

 

He’s one of our own

 

Bonilla with a piledriver and this year’s entry for The Josimar Award for best goal picture v Muangthong.

 

The finest marksman in the league.

 

That derby winning feeling.

 

And the classic we won the derby scoreboard pic

Pictures Allie Suwanrumpha(@endresultphoto) Captions The Sandpit.

Man of the Match

With a well-fought team performance across the park it is honestly difficult to pick out any individuals,  so I’ll opt for the entire defensive unit this time as they were all solid throughout (and how about that one-handed save near the end from Worawut!) Special mention to our central midfield generals Go and Siwakorn who both put in a shift and constantly pressed Muangthong high up the field which effectively stifled their play.